SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Midland University has been selected to finish second in the 2016-17 Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Preseason Coaches’ Poll, released by the conference office on Tuesday.
Briar Cliff University totaled 81 points and is the preseason coaches’ selections to win the 2016-2017 GPAC Men’s Basketball Championship. The Chargers tallied nine first-place votes. Midland garnered the other first place vote and totaled 72 points to finish second in the preseason poll.
Briar Cliff won both the regular season and tournament championships last year in the GPAC. Rounding out the top five in the poll were Dakota Wesleyan with 57 points, Dordt with 53 points, and Morningside with 44 points. Last season Dakota Wesleyan also earned a berth to the NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament.
Midland failed to qualify for the 2015-16 NAIA National Tournament for the first time in four seasons last year. The Warriors finished the season with a record of 16-14 (12-8 GPAC) and appeared in the semifinals of the conference postseason tournament under first-year head coach Oliver Drake.
Coach Drake looks to begin a new streak of trips to the National Tournament in 2016-17 with a pair of homegrown seniors and an impressive recruiting class. Alex Starkel andClayton Shepard return to the post for their final seasons in orange and blue.
Starkel, a 2014-15 Second Team All-American, is a two-time First Team All-GPAC selection and has scored 1,391 points in his Midland career. Shepard averaged 7.7 points and 5.2 rebounds a year ago in his first season as a starter for the Warriors.
Joining those veterans will be a key group of recruits that Drake knows well from his time at Ashford University. Diamontae McKinley was a 2014-15 All-American Honorable Mention and Damon Overton scored over 1,000 points in three years for the Saints under Drake’s tutelage. Nick Wood, a 6-6 forward, also rejoins Drake at Midland this season.
The Warriors officially open the 2016-17 campaign on Friday, November 4 against Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Midland will travel to Wayne State College on November 1st for an exhibition prior to that contest.
Points in the preseason poll were awarded on a 9-1 basis and coaches’ could not vote for their own team.